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A Cold Winter in Northern Wisconsin

An Editorial Commentary By Joe Johnson

Fightback!:
A Collection of Socialist Essays

by Sylvia Weinstein

It is winter and is cold here in northern Wisconsin; twenty degrees below freezing, bone cracking, killing cold. Lake Wissota, a large man made lake is frozen solid; a pick-up truck can be driven out on it. But I feel spring and a hot summer coming, and soon, I feel it in my old bones. The sun is coming up earlier every day, and every day its rays are hotter. Soon the ice will thin and crack, the heavy snow will melt and there will come destructive and unstoppable floods. The people native to this region are preparing, as they do every year for the floods of spring. There is much to be done, now before they come, for the floods, to some extent, can be controlled and directed so that they will help the land and the people who live on it.

I can remember the early spring of 1934 in Minneapolis. One of the big songs was “Brother can you spare a dime?” another was “I don’t want your millions mister, all I want is my old job back.” Demoralization, cynicism, depression was the mood of the nation. There were some protests, a few small strikes, but the strikes were quickly defeated. But Marxists’ red mole was working underground and the ice cracked, the snow melted and the floods came.

Now the earth has turned and spring comes once again. Spring on a scale never seen before, worldwide in scope. The question is what ditches in the good earth shall we dig to control and direct the floods so that they will help this land and the people who live on it.

We do not start nor can we stop the flood of revolt, but what we can do is direct it. Directed correctly, it can stop the earth from becoming unbearably hot and give time to rebuild a far better society than what we have now, but we need to dig our ditches now and correctly.

We look closely and see the natural lay of the land. Where are the very low areas and how are they likely to channel the movement of the floods? And on a bright sunny day in late winter we can see a small trickle of water moving down one of the natural channels. The occupy movement was one such trickle. It lasted a short while and showed us the lay of the land; gave us very important information before it was frozen with the force and violence of the capitalist state.

Now there is a little stream of water starting to move. It’s the $15 dollar-an-hour minimum wage for all, now. It unites the very small trickles of water into a small stream. It unites and gives direction. But, as all small streams must, it follows the contours of the land and can be blocked by very small rocks. Our job is to smooth its path, to help it move past and through the rocks to give it space and time to grow.

The 1934 strikes won major victories against the big bosses. The strikers built a fighting union movement in the C.I.O.; but they had to stop short of a victory and the bosses were able to regroup and build giant dams to hold back the flood of revolution. Then came WWII that saved the American ruling class. The American ruling class went on to use the workers to become the strongest imperialist nation that the world has ever seen. Then the deep-freeze of the American Century. Its expansion into “the far East” was stopped with the Korean War. Now new revolutionary floods are coming that are world wide in nature.

The American working people have found a banner that they can unite around. It is “$15 dollar minimum wage.” This gives people a living wage, and given the high level of labor productivity it can be given to all. This is what they voted for in Seattle, what they will fight the bosses for all across the nation.

This is the slogan of “Bread” for the U.S. today, as “Bread” was the slogan for the Russian revolution of 1917. All who struggle to save the earth from destruction, all who want a new world in birth today will unite around the new banner.

How is this to be done? The workers in unorganized low paying jobs are cutting edge; truly these people have nothing to lose but their chains and a world to win. They now have the support of the majority of the people. They need now to break their chains and move their banner forward into the ranks of the capitalists and their supporters.

The capitalists could pass a law giving a $15 dollar per hour minimum wage. They can do it, but they will not; to do so would show weakness. Also, they are arrogant and feel all-powerful; having defeated the unions time after time, they are sure they can defeat this new union-like development of the lowest of their wage slaves. Given their many victories, they do not rethink the situation, but rather simply repeat the actions that gave them victory before.

They will, I believe, act much like they did with the Occupy movement. First, black out as much as possible. When they can’t do that any longer they lead it down paths they control, get it into giant cement dams and into artificial lakes. Control is what they want to do; but if they can’t control they use the full force of their state terrorism to kill and destroy. They need to get their slaves to sing, to sing, “All I want is to get my old job back.” They have been successful in getting the very strong union at Boeing to accept a union-destroying, five-year contract on the promise that they will be able to keep their old jobs.

However, their victory is very thin; 51 percent to 49 percent and the fight is not over. The low wageworkers don’t want their old jobs back; they want new jobs at a living wage. They have nothing to lose but their chains.

It is the unorganized, weak, low paid worker that can come to the aid of the powerful Boeing union. The low paid workers are not tied into the Democratic Party, that is a party of the capitalist class, and they are not tied into a corrupt international union. But most importantly, they are not forced to keep the struggle inside the iron box of capitalist rulers, but can make their own rules. They can shut down the industry for a little while, they can use just a little of their potential power.

One thing the low paid worker can do right now is to go to their brothers and sisters at Boeing and ask for solidarity, ask to work together for unity in struggle. They will get it if they ask!

There is work to be done in smoothing the way for the coming socialist revolution.

With warmest comradely greetings; in the spirit of Crazy Horse,

Joe